I was skeptical of the NY Post story alleging that rich New York private-school parents use a service that lets them hire disabled people to act as line-jumping Disney World guides. Now Lesley, a Disney-obsessed local, has published a rebuttal pointing out that such a service wouldn't work well because there are lots of rides that can accommodate wheelchairs through the regular entrance. She also points out that the article claims that the wheelchair guide helped skip a 2.5h line for Small World, which sounds like BS, because Small World doesn't really get 2.5h lines. The whole thing is worth a read.
I've visited Disneyland and Walt Disney World with friends who had disabilities. I went to Disney World with my mom and a friend who were both in wheelchairs (my Mom had just had a hip replacement; my friend had a broken foot), and found that there were hardly any long-queue rides that offered any priority queuing to people in wheelchairs. On the other hand, I once visited Disneyland with a blind friend and her service dog in the late 1990s and found that people with dogs and their parties did go straight to the front of the line in most cases (I don't know if this is still the case, though).
The Koch Brothers -- billionaire ultra-conservative puppet-masters and Tea Party funders -- are rumored to be in talks to buy eight newspapers, including the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant from the Tribune company, which is emerging from bankruptcy protection. Half of the LA Times's newsroom has threatened to quit if the Kochs take over.
One thing sure to happen if the Koch brothers take over the paper is a conservative agenda on the editorial page. As other newspapers have cut back on editorials and endorsements, the Times is now often the only LA news outlet that issues endorsements on political candidates and on ballot measures and initiatives. This is particularly crucial in California, where even the most educated voter is left clueless and confused -- or worse, tricked -- after reading the state propositions put on the ballot by Californians who simply gathered enough signatures to push a private agenda.
If the Times' editorial page is filled with the Koch brothers' libertarian opinions, other journalists in LA will need to step up and voice opposing views.
Expect to see a lot fewer images of toxic sludge creeping through small communities, thanks to the hard work of ExxonMobil. The company could have used its prodigious resources to make its oil pipelines more secure, preventing town-destroying leaks like the one that hit Mayflower, Arkansas. But they figured out that it would be cheaper to just corrupt the local law to chase reporters out and get the FAA to establish a Temporary Flight Restriction zone over the spill. Problem solved!
Michael Hibblen, who reports for the radio station KUAR, went to the spill site on Wednesday with state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. McDaniel was in the area to inspect the site and hold a news conference, and Hibblen and a small group of reporters were following him to report on the visit. Upon arrival, representatives from the county sheriff's office, which is running security at the site, directed the reporters to a boundary point 10 feet away that they should not pass. The reporters agreed to comply. But the tone shifted abruptly, Hibblen told Mother Jones on Friday:
It was less than 90 seconds before suddenly the sheriff's deputies started yelling that all the media people had to leave, that ExxonMobil had decided they don't want you here, you have to leave. They even referred to it as "Exxon Media"…Some reporters were like, "Who made this decision? Who can we talk to?" The sheriff's deputies started saying, "You have to leave. You have 10 seconds to leave or you will be arrested."
Hibblen says he didn't really have time to deal with getting arrested, since he needed to file his report on the visit for both the local affiliate and national NPR. (You can hear his piece on the AG's visit here.) KUAR has also reported on Exxon blocking reporters' access to the spill site.
I somehow missed the fact that Charlie "Black Mirror" Brooker's brilliant, sweary, hilarious show Weekly Wipe had returned for a third season. It's the latest iteration of several different Brooker projects in which he sits on his sofa and shouts at his TV in the most amazingly entertaining way. Huge whacks of it are on YouTube, and every episode is pure glod (and oh, God, the bits where he reads awful online comments about bad TV moments aloud!).
Warren Ellis, always a shrewd observer of online media, supposes that we've reached peak social media, the point at which exciting new communications forms ossify into dull media titans:
Twitter alters its terms of access to its information, thereby harming the services that built themselves on that information. Which was stupid, because Twitter gets fewer and fewer material benefits from allowing people to use its water. And why would you build a service that relies on a private company’s assets anyway? Facebook changes its terms of access regularly. It’s broken its own Pages system and steadily grows more invasive and desperate. Instagram, now owned by Facebook, just went through its first major change in terms of service. Which went as badly as anyone who’s interacted with Facebook would expect. As Twitter disconnected itself from sharing services like IFTTT, so Instagram disconnected itself from Twitter. Flickr’s experiencing what will probably be a brief renaissance due to having finally built a decent iOS app, but its owners, Yahoo!, are expert in stealing defeat from the jaws of victory. Tumblr seems to me to be spiking in popularity, which coincides neatly with their hiring an advertising sales director away from Groupon, a company described by Techcrunch last year as basically loansharking by any other name.
This may be the end of the cycle that began with Friendster and Livejournal. Not the end of social media, by any means, obviously. But it feels like this is the point at where the current systems seize up for a bit. Perhaps not even in ways that most people will notice. But social media seems now to be clearly calcifying into Big Media, with Big Media problems like cable-style carriage disputes. Frame the Twitter-Instagram spat in terms of Virginmedia not being able to carry Sky Atlantic in the UK, say (I know there are many more US examples).
His closing remark is "I wonder if anyone’s been thinking twice about giving up their personal websites." Good question.
As is usually the case in times of unthinkable horror, The Onion just fucking nails it:
Despairing sources confirmed that the gunman, armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle—a fucking combat rifle, Jesus—walked into a classroom full of goddamned children where his mother was a teacher and, good God, if this is what the world is becoming, then how about we just pack it in and fucking give up, because this is no way to live.
I mean, honestly, all 315 million Americans confirmed.
“Well, I suppose we have to try to pick up the pieces and make some sort of sense of this tragedy and—you know what? Fuck it, I can’t do this,” said Connecticut resident Michael Zaleski, his remarks understandable given the circumstances, because, holy shit, what else can one say? “I’m sorry, but I can’t fucking do this. Can you? Can anyone?”
Roger Ebert's review of the 2003 Van Sant movie "Elephant" contains some of the most coherent criticism of the way the media reports mass killings I've yet read:
Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. "Wouldn't you say," she asked, "that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?" No, I said, I wouldn't say that. "But what about 'Basketball Diaries'?" she asked. "Doesn't that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?" The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it's unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. "Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of "explaining" them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
A stirring editorial in Time by Michael Grunwald calls out the US press for failing to report on contradictions in the GOP's platforms (for example, condemning Obama for not cutting Medicare enough while also telling people to vote against him because he wants to cut Medicare). Grunwald cites many examples of this, and says that the press is so anxious to appear nonpartisan that they're simply unwilling to state the obvious: the party's strategy is based on saying whatever is convenient at the moment.
I’ve written a lot about the GOP’s defiance of reality–its denial of climate science, its simultaneous denunciations of Medicare cuts and government health care, its insistence that debt-exploding tax cuts will somehow reduce the debt—so I often get accused of partisanship. But it’s simply a fact that Republicans controlled Washington during the fiscally irresponsible era when President Clinton’s budget surpluses were transformed into the trillion-dollar deficit that President Bush bequeathed to President Obama. (The deficit is now shrinking.) It’s simply a fact that the fiscal cliff was created in response to GOP threats to force the U.S. government to default on its obligations. The press can’t figure out how to weave those facts into the current narrative without sounding like it’s taking sides, so it simply pretends that yesterday never happened.
The next fight is likely to involve the $200 billion worth of stimulus that Obama included in his recycled fiscal cliff plan that somehow didn’t exist before Election Day. I’ve taken a rather keen interest in the topic of stimulus, so I’ll be interested to see how this is covered. Keynesian stimulus used to be uncontroversial in Washington; every 2008 presidential candidate had a stimulus plan, and Mitt Romney’s was the largest. But in early 2009, when Obama began pushing his $787 billion stimulus plan, the GOP began describing stimulus as an assault on free enterprise—even though House Republicans (including Paul Ryan) voted for a $715 billion stimulus alternative that was virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s socialist version. The current Republican position seems to be that the fiscal cliff’s instant austerity would destroy the economy, which is odd after four years of Republican clamoring for austerity, and that the cliff’s military spending cuts in particular would kill jobs, which is even odder after four years of Republican insistence that government spending can’t create jobs...
Whatever. I realize that the GOP’s up-is-downism puts news reporters in an awkward position. It would seem tendentious to point out Republican hypocrisy on deficits and Medicare and stimulus every time it comes up, because these days it comes up almost every time a Republican leader opens his mouth. But we’re not supposed to be stenographers. As long as the media let an entire political party invent a new reality every day, it will keep on doing it. Every day.
I'm all for pointing out this sort of thing whenever it arises -- including pointing out that Obama's "most transparent administration in history" is the most secretive in history. It's the press's job to hold politicians to account for their public utterances and to point out contradictions. If the press committed to calling out BS whenever it arose, we could, in fact, produce a who-lies-most scorecard, without letting anyone off the hook for lying less than the other guy.
Sam from MIT sez, "This 2-day conference at MIT brings together 50 leading thinkers about innovation in the media and marketing industries. Issues tackled include the importance of listening to their audiences and putting yourself in their shoes; the politics and ethics of curation in a spreadable media world; the move from "participatory culture" to "political participation," curing "the shiny new object syndrome" of putting the hype of new platforms over storytelling strategy, and rethinking copyright for today's world. The conference also includes particular looks into the futures of video gaming, the futures of public media, and the futures of storytelling in sports. Speakers include T Bone Burnett, Henry Jenkins, Maria Popova, Grant McCracken, Jason Falls, Valve Software's Yanis Varoufakis, PBS FRONTLINE's Andrew Golis, Google Creative Lab Director Ben Malbon, Xbox co-founder Ed Fries, AT&T AdWorks Lab Director David Polinchock, the creators of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, and USC Annenberg Inno vation Lab Director Jon Taplin. Also, there's a pre-conference event Thursday evening, Nov. 8, on 'New Media in West Africa,' moderated by mobile entertainment founder Ralph Simon and featuring the Harvard Berkman Center's Colin Maclay, artist Derrick Ashong, and iROKOtv's Fadzi Makanda."
Yesterday, Fox News aired live footage of a man in Phoenix shooting himself in the head. According to the Times of India Fox got so excited about following a carjacking suspect in a high-speed chase that they forgot to cut the feed (which ran on a five-second delay) when he got out of his car, ran a short distance, pulled out a pistol, put it to his temple, and committed suicide.
"He's looking kind of erratic, isn't he?... It's always possible the guy could be on something," said Smith in a running commentary, unaware of what was about to happen.
Turning into some bushes, the suspect then pulled out a handgun, put it to his right temple and collapsed.
On air, Smith shouted "get off it! get off it!" in a plea to his studio colleagues to halt the live feed.
In the hours that followed, YouTube scrambled to delete the video almost as quickly as its users were posting it, saying it violated its terms of service.
Josh Levy from Free Press sez, "My colleague Tim Karr just released a report exposing the billions spent on political ads around the country -- and how that money is pocketed by local TV stations. Are these stations offering any local news coverage to debunk the lies in these ads? Are they exposing the deep-pocketed interests behind the groups buying ad time? The short answer is: No. The local stations we looked at in the report provided no local stories exposing the special interests behind these ads, and only one station among the 20 surveyed devoted even a few minutes to investigating whether these ads told viewers the truth."
Here are some details from our new report, Left in the Dark: Local Coverage in the Age of Big-Money Politics:
* The Super PACs vs. Justin Bieber: The hundreds of hours of local news that aired in the two weeks prior to Wisconsin's June 5 recall election included no stories on the 17 groups most actively buying time on Milwaukee's ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates. While these stations were ignoring the impact of political ads, they found time to air 53 local news segments on Justin Bieber.
* Fact-Check Fail: The ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates in Charlotte, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Milwaukee did not once fact-check the claims made in political ads placed locally by the nation's top-spending Super PACs and independent groups, even though these groups had spent tens of millions of dollars on frequently deceptive ads in those markets.
* Hush Money: Cleveland's four affiliate stations provided no coverage of the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity, despite airing the group's anti-Obama attack ads more than 500 times. Americans for Prosperity has reportedly spent more than $1.5 million to place ads on Cleveland television stations.
* News Out of Balance: Affiliate stations in Tampa aired on average more than 200 political ads a day throughout August. Yet only one station, WTSP, devoted news time to fact-checking any of the most prominent groups buying these ads. In a single segment running less than three minutes, WTSP rated an Americans for Prosperity ad as false, a finding that didn't stop the station from running the group's anti-Obama ads more than 150 times that month.
In Der Spiegel, Friederike Ott polls Europe's photographers on their increasingly desperate quest to find compelling images to use in illustrating stories about the Eurozone crisis. Taking pictures of distressed Euro coins isn't cutting it anymore.
"It is difficult to keep finding a new approach," he says. "I'm glad the euro coins have different designs in each country. That makes it possible to vary things at least a bit."
Lighting effects can help. "A euro coin that is half in shadow immediately looks far more dramatic," he says. When Spain and Italy came under pressure in financial markets a few weeks ago, Stratenschulte lit sparklers and placed them behind two euro coins standing on their edges. The head of King Juan Carlos and the Leonarda da Vinci's Vitruvian Man stood in a sea of sparks.
Yesterday, I blogged Glenn Greenwald's Guardian story about CNN suppressing its own award-winning documentary on human rights abuses in Bahrain, which Greenwald linked to CNNi's commercial relationship with the ruling Bahraini regime. I was quickly contacted by two different PR flacks from CNN with a list of small, picky points it disputed about Greenwald's article, presented as though this constituted a thorough rebuttal. I immediately noticed that CNN's reps didn't dispute that the company had threatened to cut off Amber Lyon's severance payment if she continued to speak out on the issue, so I asked about it.
CNN's reps both told me they couldn't comment on "individual employees," which is awfully convenient. How nice for them that they can prepare and circulate a dossier that disconfirms minor elements of its critics' stories, but that it has some nebulous confidentiality code that prevents it from confirming the most damning claims made by those critics. Given that Lyon is no longer a CNN employee, and that she has divulged this threat, this feels more like an excuse than a reason. I certainly hope that CNN's own investigative journalists wouldn't accept such a pat evasion from the PR flacks that contact them.
Glenn Greenwald has published a thorough rebuttal to CNN's memo:
CNNi has nothing to say about the extensive financial dealings it has with the regime in Bahrain (what the article called "the tidal wave of CNNi's partnerships and associations with the regime in Bahrain, and the hagiography it has broadcast about it"). It has nothing to say about the repellent propaganda it produces for regimes which pay it. It has nothing to say about the Bahrain-praising sources whose vested interests with the regime are undisclosed by CNN. It provides no explanation whatsoever for its refusal to broadcast the iRevolution documentary. It does not deny that it threatened Lyon's severance payments and benefits if she spoke critically about CNNi's refusal. And it steadfastly ignores the concerns and complaints raised by its own long-time employees about its conduct.
In sum, CNNi's response does not deny, or even acknowledge, the crux of the reporting, and simply ignores the vast bulk of the facts revealed about its coverage of, and relationship with, the regime in Bahrain. Indeed, one searches its response in vain for any explanation to the central question which New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof asked nine months ago:
CNN sent its investigative correspondent Amber Lyon to produce an expensive documentary on the Arab Spring, including human rights abuses in Bahrain. Lyon and her crew were violently detained by Bahraini security forces, but soldiered on and made "iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring," which went on to win awards and acclaim after its sole airing on CNN.
But CNN International, "the most-watched English-speaking news outlet in the Middle East," has never aired the doc. While cutting the doc, Lyon was pressured to include statements from the Bahraini government that she knew to be lies. And CNN itself under-reported the ongoing abuses in Bahrain. Now, CNN has threatened Lyon with sanction for her continued work to uncover the reason that her doc was blackballed by the international arm of her former employer. CNN itself has been remarkably friendly to the Bahraini regime, with which it has close financial ties.
Here's more from Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian:
On 16 August, Lyon wrote three tweets about this episode. CNNi's refusal to broadcast "iRevolution", she wrote, "baffled producers". Linking to the YouTube clip of the Bahrain segment, she added that the "censorship was devastating to my crew and activists who risked lives to tell [the] story." She posted a picture of herself with Rajab and wrote:
"A proponent of peace, @nabeelrajab risked his safety to show me how the regime oppresses the [people] of #Bahrain."
The following day, a representative of CNN's business affairs office called Lyon's acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.